I have never borne a child from my own body. My kiddos are in my heart. I think of them, I pray for them, I weep for them, I rejoice for them. This is a letter for my darling children: for my precious hija, Maria, whom I have not seen in over eight years and who is surely stealing hearts in elementary school in Venezuela as quickly as she stole mine when she was a toddler barely able to walk; for my university students, who broadened my perspective and taught me more about loving than I could have imagined in the five years I spent doting on them; for my sweet Daniela & Michelle, whose voracious curiosity and raucous joy filled my days when I tutored them; for my incredible Diana, whose letters and pictures fill the front of my fridge; for my six little blonde fellows, whose wild presence I am still hopeful for and whose father I am praying for (whoever and wherever he is).
I want you to know a few things about love and the living of it. As of this writing, I am half-past my 31st birthday. I wish I knew everything so I could tell you everything, but as I age, I made ever more aware of how very little I know. I am much wiser than I used to be…yet I am also quite unlearned.
You will learn this, too.
I want you to know that you are loved more than you can ever imagine. I love you. I love you so much. But my love cannot compare with the love of the Lord. He loves you deeply. His love is rich and full and wild and unending. His love is gracious. Redemptive. Unsurpassed. You are so loved already. Even if He is not in your life just yet, He loves you and He calls you to Him. I encourage you to make space to listen. His whispers of love will drown out the sound of all other things. I did not listen until I was 23 and my life has never been the same. I promise you will know, sooner or later, the sound of His voice.
I want you to know that you cannot please everyone, like everyone, or keep company with everyone. I am not telling you that you are to be snobbish and aloof and selective with your love. That will never do. I am only telling you that not everyone will have a place in your life. Listen to your gut, listen to the rumblings in your belly (which are vastly different than hunger), listen to the weight in your shoulders, and you will know whose words cannot have weight in your life. Do not chase people who run away. They were simply not meant to be there.
I want you to know that love is a choice. The world and its raging hedonism will tell you that love is a human feeling that cannot be controlled and just happens, as if by some happy accident. This is a lie. An untruth. A result of telling ourselves that we can just be swayed by emotions at all times and self-control is a farce. I want you to know that love is a choice. Choose well and choose wisely. My prayer for you is that you love God, love yourself, and love others as an outpouring of that love. My prayer for you is that you will be known to others by your love. I will do everything in my heart to live out these words because I seek to love the One who loved me first.
I want you to know that you are going to find yourself in a position to love unlovely people. Guess what? You are unlovely, too. We are all sorry sinners who mess up. Do not hold this against your fellow humankind. Love them. They may not love you back, and that is okay. At the end of this journey, you will be called to answer for your actions, not theirs. Be ready.
I want you to know that loving others means you might be a bit lonely at times. If you are, and if it cuts deep and life knocks you flat as a result, know this: when you lose everything…you find yourself in the One who loves and saves. Live your loneliness and pain and learn from it and let it carve out deep spaces in you to be filled with more love. You will love better as a result.
I want you to know that living out a life of love is hard. Hard might be an understatement. People will not always understand and since the natural human reaction is to fear what we do not understand, you are bound to be the recipient of hate. That’s okay. Love them anyway. You never know what bits of light you are shining in a dark and burdened heart. And there are so many burdened hearts in this world. Love them along to freedom, where they no longer seek to hurt out of their own hurt. I cannot promise that you will get to see them live freely, but I can promise that you will not regret the loving.
I want you know that you have three ways to view others: as a right, as a responsibility, and as a privilege. Love is the latter. Privilege. Loving others truly only happens when we love ourselves and can give out of that love, made possible only by the pure and honest love of the Lord. Love is a privilege. Use it well, do not abuse it or you will find yourself in a pit of selfishness. I lived there once and I pray you never know such depths.
I want you to know that 1 Corinthians 13 is an beautiful check for how you love. Read those words from time to time and learn how to love well.
I love you. I pray you feel loved. I pray your love is free and full and deep and as a wildfire.